Monday, July 14, 2008


Sam Smith

Even before the current mortgage crisis, evidence that rightwing economic policy since Reagan has been a failure was overwhelming. The problem was that nobody seemed to notice. In no small part, this was thanks to a media - heavily comprised of ex-political science, history and English majors - accepting without question propaganda from the right that, in many ways, was the same thing to economics as creationism is to evolution.

Even now, with news of collapse unavoidable, journalists try to sound intelligent by suggesting government involvement in the rescue from two and a half decades of corporatism might be a violation of the allegedly sacred principles of the free market. This is not an ideological matter on the media's part - after all, NPR has been a regular enabler - but rather reflects the journalists' willingness to rely on whatever "expert" happens to be in power at the moment.

Thus, the average reader or viewer may not realize that during the glory years of the second robber baron era, things like these have fallen significantly:

Minimum wage as percent of average wage

Real income

Real manufacturing wages

Percent of single women and mothers in the workforce

The bottom 40%'s share of national wealth

Older families with pensions.

Workers covered by defined benefit pensions.

The savings rate

US manufacturing jobs

And here are some of the things that have grown:

Top 1% share of total income

Income gap between rich and poor

Foreign debt as a percent of GDP

Age at which one can receive Social Security


Consumer credit debt

Housing foreclosures

Severe poverty rate

With the media almost completely blacking out all but conservative economic viewpoints, the public has little idea of how well socialism often works or how a blend of capitalism and public involvement can solve many problems, or that we actually function on a principle Paul Soglin, the former mayor of Madison, Wisconsin, labeled lemon socialism, of which the current bailout of the big housing insurers is a classic case and in which the capitalists both get to make money and then get bailed out by the government when they fail.

This has been one of the media's greatest sins, one that stems from ignorance, groveling to power and infatuation with the cliches of the moment.

Just as examples, why are we not allowed to debate regulations on credit care usury? Or an equity sharing program in which the government helps people buy homes rather than helping the banks when the loans go bad? Or letting the government as well as the banks print money - to be used for non-inflationary public works instead of putting generations in debt for stupid wars?

The Republicans lack the intelligence, the Democrats lack the courage. The media can continue to contribute to our downward economic slide or it can help introduce us the ideas, principles and approaches that will show the way out of a quarter century of greed and stupidity parading as economic theory.